Random Notes From World Fantasy Con

1)  My reading at World Fantasy went much better than I’d expected.  I read to a pretty good-sized crowd – as witness this photo I took a couple of minutes before I started (even more people showed up after this):
My World Fantasy Reading
I gave a pretty emotional performance of “‘Run,’ Bakri Says,” which is in itself a pretty intense story.  I got what seemed like a really long wave of applause afterwards, so long that I had to thank people three times before it stopped, and afterwards Gini said that someone told her that she had to keep remembering to breathe.
I mean, pretty much everyone who showed up knew me on some level, which is the way it works when you’re starting your career, but I think that reading converted a couple of folks from friends into fans, which is nice.
The best part, however, was when Keffy took me aside after the performance and said, “I hope you realize how much I hate you in this moment.”  Keffy and I are Clarion-brothers, and intensely loving-competitive, and we a) do everything we can to help each other out, and b) seethe with envy over the other’s talents.  His hatred was the sign I’d written a good story.
2)  Speaking of Clarion, we had a rather monstrous reunion of my 2008 class, with thirteen of the eighteen students converging on San Diego, and two teachers.  Of course I didn’t get nearly enough time catching up with everybody, but that would require another six weeks.
Still, I did room with my Clarion-sister Dana, who I miss more than Internet-hearts can say, and had a luxuriously long dinner with my teacher Nalo Hopkinson, who has a YA book coming out that you all really ought to read.
My favorite Clarion moment was, however, courtesy of Neil Gaiman, who we didn’t expect to see much at World Fantasy, him being the guest of honor and all.  And we didn’t, really.  But at around 11 o’clock on Saturday night, he ran into me and Emily Jiang and said, “This has been crazy, but I do want to catch up with all of you – can we get together tomorrow morning for breakfast?”  And we said yes, and set a time and a place.
He took half a step away, then paused.  “You’ll tell the others, won’t you?”
Now, the thing you need to understand was that at Clarion, we were a hive-mind.  Tell one student, “We’re going to the beach tonight” and the information transparently disseminated throughout the group so that within an hour, everyone understood.  There was no explicit mechanism that made this happen; we were just all committed to getting the word out.  It was something teachers got actively used to, telling Monica there was a 4:00 lecture and having it just get around.
Neil’s pause was that moment of, “Oh, wait, perhaps I shouldn’t assume that telling Emily and Ferrett will automatically inform everyone else.”  But no.  As it turns out, I texted everyone who I had their number, who alerted the people they were partying with, and Emily did her social butterfly thing, and an hour later every Clarion 2008 member knew about tomorrow’s get-together.
Three years later, we’re still networked.  Go 2008.
3)  Yes, I also met Amanda Palmer briefly.  No, I doubt she’d remember me.  Yes, she’s actually much prettier in real life.
4)  Gini was also there, which made Clarion feel more complete.
See, my Clarionmates obviously heard a lot about Gini, because I do tend to go on about my awesome wife… but they’ve never met her.  And I realized at World Fantasy Con that to a very real extent, you can’t know me all the way unless you’ve met Gini.
So having them meet Gini was a relief to me, a sense of closure.  And it was delightful when many of them came up to me afterwards and said, “She really is that awesome.”  Damn straight.  But it feels like they’re fully engaged with me now, which is a little odd.
Unfortunately, that sense of completeness made the con a little harder for Gini.  Normally, I try to shepherd Gini through new places, but I kept seeing her talking with people who I knew liked me, and went, “Oh, well, if they like me, they’ll like Gini” and would wander off as I talked to other people.  All the while forgetting that a) Gini had just met these people and felt the low strain of making new friends, and b) forgetting that if I wandered off, Gini might have to wander around and make even newer friends once this current conversation ended.
Fortunately, Gini is charming and vivacious and swanned quite nicely through the con, but around midnight on Saturday I realized that hey, maybe I shouldn’t have this assumption of me === her.  Silly weasels.
5)  I got a secret beer at World Fantasy, because I’d had a story published at the fantasy fiction podcast PodCastle.  The beer?

In addition, I apparently got name-checked on a panel for that story as an example of “sympathetic monsters done right.”  Apparently people like monsters who unashamedly eat humans.
6)  I finished my next-to-final draft of my novel while at World Fantasy, because I’m a tireless git who writes for at least an hour a day, even at conventions.  Next up: send to trusted beta readers, get do final draft and 10% Solutionize, and start seeing if 2012 can become The Year I Sell A Novel.

Sex and Length *heh*

So my friend Eric Meyer noted the other day that the phrase “three-minute wonder” may in fact be overlooking the idea that some women like partners who get off quickly.  Which is true.  I’ve known more than one woman who complained about some bohunk pounding her cervix for hours at a time, overstaying their welcome.
This leads to an interesting question: What’s your ideal sex time?
I know, I know, it all depends on the mood and the partner… but I think most of us have a rough time we settle into.  As my wife is so fond of noting, I’m extremely girly when it comes to bedtime activities; I like lots of snuggling and foreplay, so in an ideal situation it winds up being about twenty to thirty minutes of hot making out and other activities, and then about ten to fifteen of the whole PIV stuff.
(Is it just me, or is “PIV” perhaps the least-erotic acronym ever?  “Penis in vagina” just sounds like Animal is describing sex to Miss Piggy.  “PENIS IN VAGINA!  PENIS IN VAGINA!  EAT DRUMS!  EAT DRUMS!”)
So for me, satisfying sex winds up being about forty minutes long from start to finish.  Interestingly, you’d think my blossoming Dom tendencies would make this shorter, since I’d be more selfish when I’m just flinging my partners onto the bed, but then the actual PIV bits take longer because I’m abusing them when I’m doing so, and that’s distracting to my actual finish.  So either way: about forty minutes to an hour.
The question is, I guess, what sorts of sexual time work best for you, as a default?  If your ideal partner came and went at your command, what’s the range you’d be looking at assuming you had sex often enough to form a sort of baseline?  Is, perhaps, the three-minute wonder the better lover?

The Three Spree Killers: A Review

Three Musketeers is a film that transforms spree killers into heroes by sheer dint of movie willpower.  All it would take is one person to note that these “Musketeers” are hair-trigger maniacs, willing to slaughter at the slightest provocation, and wham!  We’d be watching the 17th century version of Natural Born Killers.
Consider: In the first fifteen minutes of Three Musketeers, we are introduced to D’Artagnan, whose first act before he’s half a mile from home is to challenge a man to a duel to the death because the man insulted his beaten-down horse.  He is handily defeated by his better, and only avoids being killed thanks to voice of plot.
Then, upon arriving in the big town, he chases after the guy who beat him, hoping for a rematch, and is sufficiently rude and thoughtless along the way that he gets into three more duels, one with each of the Musketeers.  They face off when forty guards arrive to tell them that duels are illegal, at which point D’Artagnan kills five guards and the other Musketeers go, “Well, I like killing people!” and join in to slaughter at least twenty more.
And I do mean slaughter.  These people are thrusting blades into guards’ hearts, slicing them across the neck, flinging them off ledges.  There’s no blood, but people are getting fucking chopped up.  In the medicine-free days of the 17th century when people died to infections because of stubbed toes, it is difficult not to see how thrusting a blood-encrusted sword through someone’s chest is not going to lead to a long, slow death by suppurating fever.
Then they all return to their lair, where the Musketeers berate their manservant for not bringing them wine (even though he informs them they are broke).  As punishment for his inability to conjure wine out of thin air, they punish their manservant by making him sleep out on the freezing balcony, where they know – for they are told – that birds will poop in his mouth.
These aren’t musketeers.  They’re fucking mass murderers.  They probably have very stylish waistcoats made out of human skin in their closet.
Don’t get me wrong.  Three Musketeers is one of those movies that moves along at such a rapid clip that, like a stagecoach going to fast, it begins to shudder and shed space bits of plot and logic and characterization.  Something’s always happening.  It’s entertaining, for which about 40% can be attributed to things the producers intended to be entertaining.  The rest is sheer, “What the fuck?  They thought this was good?  Oh my god, this is ludicrous.”
This is a movie so accelerated that it’s like Cleolinda’s Movies in Fifteen Minutes came to life and wrote their own movie.  As an extra bonus, if you like Star Wars and The Princess Bride you’ll love The Three Musketeers, because about 10% of the dialogue is cribbed from it, including a wholesale ripoff of “Anyone who says different is selling you something.”
Three Musketeers seems custom-tailored for friends to get drunk and sit around their living rooms, snarking at what was intended to be amusing and is, for reasons that they didn’t really meant to be.  Plus, you get Orlando Bloom hamming it up in a way that’s Golden Razzie award-worthy.
The real trick, however, is watching how this movie makes the protagonists into heroes by repeatedly insisting they are.  The best part is the last: in the most sequel-bait final scene ever, we discover that the Musketeers have rampantly slaughtered hundreds of people in an attempt to prevent war with England… and in the coda, we discover that England’s attacking anyway.
They’re brutal.  They’re murderers.  They’re incompetent.  Yet the movie never lets you forget they’re heroes…. Probably because if it didn’t insist loudly and conspicuously, you might realize you’re watching Silence of the Lambs with no jails and a lot of swords.

A Word On Sex From A Guy Who's Had A Bit Of It

Over the past few days, I’ve seen posts from “inexperienced” women lamenting that their scant handful of partners makes them nervous about sex.  Will they be able to please their next partner?  What if they’re bad in bed?  What if they need more sex to be “skilled”?
I’m here to tell you that sexual experience doesn’t matter.
Having slept with roughly a hundred different women in my time, I’ve had enough of a sample size to know that sex boils down to three things: enthusiasm, chemistry, and experience.  And the last is the least important.
I’ve slept with women who’ve had four partners total, yet had hands that reduced me to jelly.  I’ve slept with women who’ve been around as much as I have and walked away with that slightly outraged feeling you get when all of your friends raved about how this movie was totally awesome, and it actually wasn’t very good at all.
You can be a novice and be very good in bed.  All you need to be is enthusiastic, by which I mean “wanting your partner with a cheerful willingness, and eager to learn.”  If you pay attention to what s/he responds positively to, and are expressing a happiness to be there, then chances are you’re pretty decent in bed already.
Now, you may have had a bad experience or two – and that comes down to this elusive “chemistry” element.  I had a friend of mine boast that he could be the best partner for any woman, ever.  He’d just adapt his style to hers, the chameleon of love, and then wham.  He’d be #1.
That may have been the silliest thing I’ve ever read on LiveJournal.
Sometimes, you get together with someone, and for whatever reason you just don’t sync up.  If you’ve been around you can sometimes cobble it together into a pretty decent evening… But bodies are strange things.  They crave some people and don’t crave others.  Sometimes, two people just don’t work particularly well with each other even if everything else works great, and in rare cases they require enough work that you might as well find someone else whose key does fit your lock.
Chemistry’s not a static thing, of course.  Some evenings are better than others, which is why sometimes you try things twice.  But I’ve hit it off with quote-unquote “inexperienced” girls whose every touch hit something that turned me on.  You do not need a big catalog of lovers to be good.
Why does experience count for so little?  Mainly because the skillset that allows you to charm your way into people’s boudoirs is not the same skillset as actually being good in bed.  I have slept with a fair number of women, but none of that happened because I am a wonderful lover.  How could they tell?  It happened because I’m good with words, and can make clever conversation, and am open about my desire for sex without necessarily demanding it.
None of those skills help me once the pants are off.
Do not confuse “effective flirting” with “being good in bed.”  I know a lot of guys who charmed their way into women’s pants, and turned out to be three-minute wonders.  I know a lot of women who claimed to satisfy a lot of men, and were mechanical and cold under the sheets.  Sleeping around a lot means you’re good at closing the deal, but not necessarily great at the act itself.
(Plus, most people who talk openly about their sexual skills, exaggerate them.  I’ve rarely heard a guy telling a girl, “Yeah, I’ve never gotten the hang of this whole ‘cunnilingus’ thing.”)
Then there’s the learning factor.  If merely cooking a lot made someone a chef, I know several McDonald’s fry cooks who would own five-star restaurants by now.  You can worm your way into people’s beds only to be a selfish git, and you can stall after you’ve determined that your home-brewed “bed-breaker” technique is so good that you don’t need to learn any other.
What experience can give you is a certain baseline level of success.  As noted, I’ve been with some women where I had awful chemistry – not many, maybe one out of twenty-five, but enough that it would have been awkward without it.  I had enough techniques to fall back on that I think I scraped by with a gentleman’s C… And for that, I’ll take it.
The failure state of experience, though, is something cold and clinical, where he’s pleasuring you distantly, which is always a turnoff.  Which brings us back to the core level of “enthusiasm.”
This is why, if you’re worried, I implore you: don’t worry about it.  Seriously.  It will just make you more awkward and hesitating in bed, and that’s rarely a turn-on.  You are fine the way you are, and you can be good for anyone.
Just be turned on, and ready to experiment, and pay attention to what your lover reacts to.  The rest is dross.

Where I'll Be At WFC

"Run," Bakri Says - My Latest Story's In Asimov's!If you’re attending World Fantasy Con in San Diego this weekend, good news!  I’ll be there.
Better news!  I’ve got a reading!  So if you want to hear me read my latest time-travelling terrorism tale “‘Run,’ Bakri Says” (available in Asimov’s latest issue), you can find me reading it at 8:30 on Saturday night!  Please come.  It’s dinnertime.  I will be lonely, and scared, a juice which only makes my performances better.
Also, if you want to meet up at some point during WFC, leave a comment and we’ll find some way to exchange numbers.  I’m text-friendly. Some might say addicted.